[IMGCAP(1)]There are many things in life that we know we should do but don’t. We don’t drink enough water. We don’t floss every day. We forget to walk the dog. In accounting, there is a best practice that CPAs know they should implement but often put off: encryption.

There is widespread consensus that data security is critical for companies and individuals—and especially for SMBs. Yet less than half of them use encryption to safeguard confidential information. The excuses we hear from small banks, insurance companies and CPA firms vary from “it’s too complicated” to fear of blocking their own access. But if you think encryption is too complicated, consider the complications that could result from a breach. They include:

  • Cost of recovering data
  • Risk of lawsuits
  • Loss of clients and decreased revenue
  • Damaged reputation and loss of trust

The Scope of the Problem

The popularity of laptops has resulted in increased data security breaches, because they so frequently go missing. They are more easily stolen—in fact, laptop theft is soaring. They are left behind in taxis. And they disappear in airports at an alarming rate. Thousands are lost each week in U.S. airports, and most are never recovered.  Unfortunately, most of these laptops contain confidential information.

Recent findings show that more than six out of 10 data breaches are the result of a lost or stolen laptop. Let’s face it—the reality is that hacking into a computer isn’t that difficult.

Identity theft is a large—and growing—issue in our world, exacerbated by computer security breaches. While it might be costly to replace a laptop, the true cost of its loss is measured by the value of the confidential information on board—a treasure trove of information and data for identity thieves.

For the typical individual the loss of a laptop is bad, to be sure. But if you are a CPA and you lose your laptop—with all its proprietary and sensitive client and corporate information—it could be catastrophic. The loss of a laptop could mean the loss of trust…and clients. In addition, a CPA can be held liable for financial losses that might result if identity theft occurs.

A Simple Solution

For some reason, people seem to underestimate the importance of human error when it comes to IT security. And there are certainly best practices for professionals traveling with laptops that can help ensure security, including:

  • Never let your laptop out of your physical control. Don’t put it in a taxi trunk, and carry it yourself into hotel rooms and airports.
  • While flying and not using your laptop, stow it at your feet or in the overhead bin closest to your seat.

But perhaps the most vital—and effective—best practice is to use encryption software to protect all the data on your laptop. We can’t always prevent the loss of a laptop, but we can prevent unauthorized access to what’s stored on it.
Any organization worried about the loss from laptops of confidential or private information should invest in an encryption solution. Encryption solutions are easy to use and offer high-quality, reliable protection. An encryption software service provider can do it all, protecting computers and even ensuring compliance with a variety of regulatory requirements. And once encryption is done, a recovery file is sent to the service provider’s help desk, providing easy access to everything. Even for small practitioners, encryption programs are readily available at an affordable cost.

It’s a baffling situation, needless to say. Don’t let procrastination put your business at risk. The costs are simply too high.

Ebba Blitzis president of Alertsec. Specializing in the fast deployment of IT security and sales, she has been on the board since its inception in 2007 and is responsible for setting up the U.S. West Coast sales office. The encryption company provides computer security through the cloud.

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